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First drive: Cupra Formentor. Image by Cupra.

First drive: Cupra Formentor
Cupra’s second product and first all-new machine is this stylish coupe-SUV, the Formentor.

 



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Cupra Formentor 310 TSI

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Cupra's second effort as a standalone brand is its first bespoke vehicle, the Formentor. It's another SUV, and mechanically it's similar to Cupra's initial offering of the Ateca, but if you're wanting something a bit more racy-looking outside and in, and which provides an impressive drive, then this flagship Formentor 310 TSI is well worth serious consideration.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Cupra Formentor VZ Edition 2.0 TSI 310 DSG 4Drive
Pricing: Formentor range from £27,300, VZ Edition TSI 310 as tested from £43,840
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: 4Drive all-wheel drive with XDS Electronic diff-lock, seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic
Body style: five-door performance coupe-SUV
CO2 emissions: 203g/km (VED Band 191-225: £1,305 first 12 months, then £475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 36.7mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Power: 310hp at 5,450-6,600rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2,000-5,450rpm
Boot space: 420-1,475 litres

What's this?

To give it the full nomenclature, it's the Cupra Formentor VZ Edition 2.0 TSI 310 DSG 4Drive. In that typical Volkswagen Group way, this wordy name needs a bit of breaking down but it's reasonably straightforward to decipher nonetheless: Cupra means it's a Cupra, so high-performance spicy Spanish stuff, and not a SEAT; Formentor is the new model, named after a peninsula at the eastern end of the Balaeric isle of Majorca; VZ Edition represents the top of six trims available on the Formentor (the car, not the cape) and the 'VZ' bit comes from the Spanish 'veloz', which means 'fast'; 2.0 TSI 310 denotes that the EA888 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine is once again pressed into service here, delivering a healthy 310hp at its peak; and DSG 4Drive explains that said power (and torque) output(s) is (are?) delivered to all four wheels through a seven-speed twin-clutch automated manual. Simple, eh?

Expanding upon this a little more, the Formentor is particularly noteworthy because it is a model which has no SEAT analogue. Which is to say, while you can get S-monogrammed versions of the existing Cupra Ateca and, of course, the incoming Cupra Leon, the Formentor will only ever have that bizarre tribal tattoo-type thing appended to its radiator grille and boot lid. Not, though, that it will be restricted to a 310hp petrol engine only. Coming soon in the wake of this launch motor will be a 245hp petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Formentor and also one powered by the 150hp 1.5-litre TSI you'd find in a facelifted Ateca. In the fullness of time, there should also be a 190hp 2.0-litre pure-petrol TSI variant and a lower-output PHEV with 204hp overall.

Anyway, that's why Cupra UK can claim a starting price of little more than £27,000 for the Formentor range, despite the fact that - as of right now - you can only order the 310hp motor in a minimum of VZ2 specification, from £39,830. However, standard kit on every single Formentor sold on these shores will include (but is in no way limited to) such delights the Digital Cockpit instrument cluster, LED headlights, Adaptive Cruise Control and a leather steering wheel, and that's on the V1. You step up from there to V2, then it runs VZ1, VZ2, VZ3 and, finally, VZ Edition. Which is what we're driving here: a bells'n'whistles Cupra with 19-inch copper alloys, a panoramic sunroof, Brembo brakes, Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), heated leather upholstery clothing bucket seats up front and complementing a heated steering wheel too, what appears to be every single advanced driver assist safety (ADAS) system that is currently available in the Volkswagen Group, Sports suspension, a rear-view camera, parking sensors all round, an automated boot lid, keyless entry and go... we mean, we could go on, but we think you get the picture.

That goes some way to mitigating the VZ Edition's meaty price tag of almost £44,000, a number which tips it beyond the £40,000 VED threshold and incurs an additional £325 of road tax for the second to sixth years of ownership of the car. But when you get an SUV as laden with toys as this, which looks as good inside and out as the Cupra Formentor does, then you don't tend to mind. It's a really cohesive piece of design, various signifiers like the hexagonal grille and full-width light strip at the back tying it in with the SEAT exterior language which kicked off on the Tarraco SUV, but the Formentor has a striking presence all of its own. Cupra actually describes it as a coupe-SUV to complement the more upright, traditional beast that is the Ateca from the same sub-marque, but it's still a five-door vehicle at heart - and, perhaps more appealingly, it's closer in height and stance to a Leon than it is to an Ateca. Which bodes well for the driving experience.

The winning part of the Formentor, however, is its fabulous cabin. Enriched with Petrol Blue hide in our test car, it's a superb blend of the functional and the eye-catching, with a strip of ambient lighting running from the doors around the base of the windscreen being the first thing to attract your attention. Brilliantly, this incorporates the yellow warning signals for the blind-spot monitoring, rather than that little 'car overtaking car' graphic you normally get in the door mirrors, which is a neat solution to a, um, problem that didn't really exist in the first place. But we like this needless flourish of technological showmanship nonetheless. Furthermore, the six-layout digital instrument cluster is excellent, there's a whopping great 12-inch infotainment screen of startling clarity dominating the dash, and while the steering wheel is a bit too button-busy (18 functions on it alone!) and the rest of the console is perhaps a tad switch-sparse for some people's taste, the Formentor's cabin nevertheless feels, looks and operates like a thoroughly quality item. Better yet, rear passenger space isn't badly compromised by its lower roof height when compared to an Ateca, while even on 4Drive models like the 310hp flagship, the boot's minimum capacity is a useful 420 litres.

How does it drive?

If the Cupra Formentor wins plenty of fans in the showrooms, it then has to convince a lot of Doubting Thomases out on the roads, because there are many folk who think Cupra shouldn't have done one crossover-SUV, never mind two of the things. There will also be those who wonder what the Formentor offers that a decent Leon Cupra Estate doesn't. That second point is a touch trickier to head off at the pass, if we're honest, but on the former score then Cupra is only, quite rightly and sensibly, responding to the overriding market demand for SUVs.

Therefore, the way the Formentor drives is difficult to fault if you judge it by the standards of SUVs rather than sports cars, even if the mechanicals that power it are as well-used as an old pair of careworn slippers. You'll find pretty much the same running gear in a Volkswagen Golf R Mk7, for instance. Or the old Audi S3, or even its TTS stablemate. Shorn of 4Drive, it was even found propelling the fantastic Mk3 Leon Cupra R, although a more representative comparison to a past SEAT would be with the blinding Cupra R Abt.

Sadly, the Formentor doesn't drive quite as well as those two retired fast Leons, but it's still rather good for what it is. With its standard-fit DCC and five overarching drive modes to go at (Individual, Offroad, Comfort, Sport and Cupra), you ought to be able to find a setting somewhere within the VZ Edition's digital menus that suits you - especially as, if you delve into the configurable components of the car through the Individual mode - you'll find there are seven different parameters you can tweak through each of two, three or four variances... save for the DCC, which has a bewildering 15 (FIFTEEN!) different levels to go at, beyond the 'main three' of Comfort, Sport and Cupra.

You can keep the Formentor in the standard Comfort mode, though, and be suitably impressed by it. For a big, sturdy vehicle rolling on 19s, it rides remarkably pleasantly, and while there's a trifle too much tyre noise on rougher road surfaces, otherwise the sound-deadening around the cabin does an admirable job of keeping the rustling of wind and any clonking of dampers from reaching the ears of the Cupra's occupants. Visibility is exceptional in all directions, save perhaps directly out through the narrower rear screen, and light, well-judged controls make it easy to place on the road and drive smoothly in start-stop traffic. Its DSG also doesn't display any of that hesitancy which has afflicted other twin-clutchers in the wider VW Group in recent years, either.

Step it up into Sport or Cupra, and you'll notice the sound of the engine suddenly becomes thicker and buzzier in the cabin. Yep, it has been augmented somehow, although we wouldn't say we dislike the noise that the Formentor emits when it is working hard in its sharper drive modes. That said, we don't like the slightly artificial soundtrack half as much as we do the way the 2.0-litre turbocharged four propels the 1,644kg Formentor down the road. Say what you like about familiarity breeding contempt, but the EA888 remains a cracking powerplant and it has no trouble dealing with the Cupra's mass in a wide variety of driving scenarios. It's muscular and torquey in the low range, and it likes to rev out keenly to the redline too, so there's plenty of reach and scope to have fun with the Formentor's engine all around the tacho.

Better yet, the star motor is backed up by a well-sorted, planted chassis; one which, granted, offers that slightly safe and go-quickly-anywhere attitude of many AWD products from within the same group, but also one which is among the leading lights for fast-moving, high-riding vehicles. The steering is nicely weighted and direct all of the time, even if it doesn't offer much in the way of feedback, while both the Sport and Cupra settings of the dampers do not render the Formentor unusable on the public highways. There are more abrupt vertical movements of the body in Cupra, yes, but there's also enough suppleness in the suspension in this mode that the Formentor doesn't skitter, thump and tramline its way about the place. Admittedly, Sport is probably the better set-up for fast-road use, as it's a little more forgiving, but with masses of grip, unbreakable traction and the strength of that four-cylinder engine, this is a performance SUV that handles smartly and goes quickly, no matter what the weather outside is doing. Or, in other words, the Formentor is a crossover in which it is very easy to form a deep rapport with it, and you'll do so quite soon after getting behind the wheel too.

Verdict

Knowing what underpins the Cupra Formentor 310 TSI, there's nothing transcendental about the way it handles nor its straight-line performance - but then, there's nothing significantly flawed about it, either. This is a spacious, fast, practical, capable and amenable performance SUV, with handsome looks and a smashing interior. Yes, it can get a little expensive at the top end of the range where this VZ Edition sits, but it doesn't feel significantly overpriced and as there is no SEAT equivalent of the Formentor, then this particular Cupra SUV always comes across as something special. It's another mighty proficient product from the Spanish outfit and a sure sign that, whether you like crossovers and SUVs or not, this new marque is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 29 Oct 2020









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2020 Cupra Formentor 310 TSI 4Drive DSG VZ Edition. Image by Cupra.2020 Cupra Formentor 310 TSI 4Drive DSG VZ Edition. Image by Cupra.2020 Cupra Formentor 310 TSI 4Drive DSG VZ Edition. Image by Cupra.2020 Cupra Formentor 310 TSI 4Drive DSG VZ Edition. Image by Cupra.2020 Cupra Formentor 310 TSI 4Drive DSG VZ Edition. Image by Cupra.

2020 Cupra Formentor 310 TSI 4Drive DSG VZ Edition. Image by Cupra.2020 Cupra Formentor 310 TSI 4Drive DSG VZ Edition. Image by Cupra.2020 Cupra Formentor 310 TSI 4Drive DSG VZ Edition. Image by Cupra.2020 Cupra Formentor 310 TSI 4Drive DSG VZ Edition. Image by Cupra.2020 Cupra Formentor 310 TSI 4Drive DSG VZ Edition. Image by Cupra.








 

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